Attention vegan and vegetarian Warriors! I know many of you choose to eat a plant-based diet for better health. Filled with antioxidants, these nutrient-dense foods help you ward off disease, calm inflammation, and maintain a healthy weight. However, without careful attention and supplementation there are a few things missing. One of these nutrients is vitamin B12. So what’s the big deal with one or two little nutrients if you’re doing such a good job eating more veggies and fruit?
This vital nutrient carries out several important functions in your body, including DNA synthesis, red blood cell formation, and nervous system function. It helps produce the myelin—the protective fatty tissue—that surrounds your nerves to keep them working at optimal levels. It gives you a super energy boost. And it may help protect your memory.
B12 is typically found in animal products, such as meat, eggs, fish, and dairy. People who eat a plant-based diet are more prone to B12 deficiency because plants simply don’t make this nutrient. Being deficient in B12 can result in the following symptoms:
• Anemia• Fatigue• Weakness• Constipation• Loss of appetite• Weight loss• Tingling in hands and feet• Headaches• Depression• Confusion• Dementia• Poor memory
In addition to not receiving enough B12 in a plant-based diet, you may be at further risk if you take certain medications that are known to deplete this necessary nutrient. Birth control pills are one such medication, according to a study in nutrients. Researchers have also found that B12 deficiency may increase the risk of depression and some neurologic disorders.
How can you tell if you have a deficiency? Get your blood levels checked. Normal B12 blood levels are in the range of 200-900 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). If your levels are lower than that, your doctor may want to do further testing.
The USRDA recommends getting 2.4 micrograms of B12 a day for adults. Most fortified foods—breakfast cereals and milk—are off limits on a Warrior’s brain healthy eating plan. However, fortified milk alternatives, such as almond or coconut milk, are an option to help give your diet a B12 boost.
If changes in your diet don’t do the trick to boost your B12 levels, ask your doctor about B12 supplementation with nutraceuticals or injections.
You can find delicious plant-based recipes—as well as recipes with B12-rich foods throughout this site and in the Brain Warrior’s Way Cookbook.